Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.


Cold Calling Blues

cold calling, sales

When it comes to sales, you are in charge. Nothing happens in a business until a sale happens. Without the sale, nobody in the company is asked to build or provide anything to a client. Nobody is able to send out an invoice or bill. No money comes in, no bills get paid, no employees get paid. So until a sale happens, whether it’s on the street, in the store, online or at a tradeshow, nothing happens.

This was one of the first lessons I got when I moved away from talking into a microphone for a living to selling tradeshow exhibits. It puts a lot of pressure on ya! But it also opens doors to growth that you might not often recognize, or otherwise have in your life.

As a company owner at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I’m responsible for many things – one of them is to bring in business: to make a sale. And frankly, it’s a competitive marketplace. There are a lot of good tradeshow companies, designers and fabricators out there. So, like any other company, we’ve tried any number of things: advertising in local and national publications, Google Adwords, sending out regular newsletters, soliciting referrals from current clients, blogging and other types of inbound marketing, social media outreach, walking the floor at tradeshows, gathering information on exhibitors to follow up later…and cold calling.

But, you say…Isn’t cold calling a good way to bug people? To interrupt them? To intrude upon their busy day? After all, in this online world, if people want to find what you’re selling, shouldn’t they be able to do it online? Certainly, but since being online in a crowded world isn’t perfect, businesses need to be able to reach potential buyers directly.

And that means cold calling.

Frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of cold calling for a number of reasons, but as my Sandler Sales trainer keeps telling me, “You don’t have to like it you just have to do it.” And with better tools and more effective questions, it becomes easier. And, as with any other selling method, it can bring in business.

In the past 30 days of cold calling I’ve uncovered several leads for potential projects. I’ve even found half a dozen people that told me “you should have called a couple of weeks ago!” as they just made a deal for a project.

Which tells me a number of things:

  • Businesses are buying
  • Every business is in a different situation and you might be exactly what they’re looking for
  • If you use cold calling as part of your selling strategy, as in any part of your strategy, you’ll continue to uncover leads

So to bring this around full circle and relate it to tradeshow marketing, it’s worth doing. Your audience – your potential clients – are all in different situations. Some may have just purchased exactly what you’re offering. Others may not need your services for another year or more. But some will be in the perfect sweet spot where their needs match up with your product, service and capabilities.

Get the free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

Tradeshow Execution is Not Outside the Box

thinking tradeshow marketing outside the box

“Outside the box.” Should you be thinking about your tradeshow marketing using an outside-the-box approach?

Well, that depends. If you can come up with an unusual way to draw crowds, or do pre-show marketing that whets attendees’ appetites, I think you’ve got something going.

But if you’re looking for something outside the box when it comes to actual execution of all of the needed elements, you’re probably better off drawing inside the lines.

When it comes to greeting visitors with a smile, having a pertinent question for them, and responding to questions with accuracy and integrity, you’re on the right track.

When it comes to having a booth that meets all of your function needs, from attractive graphics and proper demo or sample areas to storage and meeting, you’re probably going to want to do it by-the-book.

When it comes to tracking lead generation, sales follow up and tracking ROI, keep it on the straight and narrow.

In other words, do all you need to do using tried-and-true activities designed to effectively execute the functions of exhibiting – stay inside the box – and you’ll be happier for it.

But when it comes to getting people’s attention through what might be considered outlandish or outside-the-box promotional methods, have at it.

Just make sure that once all of those people get to your booth, you have the systems and experience in place to benefit from them.

Tradeshow Marketing: To What End?


It used to be that I liked to buy the new things without a whole lot of thought. If I could afford it, I’d get it. New camera, bicycle, car, album, phone, appliance, whatever. But these days I tend to think a lot more about it, and end up asking myself why should I buy that thing? To what end? Why should I get it? What is the reason for acquiring something new? In most cases, I don’t have an answer. It’s why my great little Macbook Pro is 5 and a half years old now, and runs great. It does all I need. It’s why it took me a few years to finally get that new bicycle that I’ve been thinking about. Now that I have it, I ride every day for at least 20 or 30 minutes, rain or shine. I ask “to what end?” and if I don’t have a good enough answer, I just wait.

You can also ask the same question about tradeshow marketing: to what end? What do you get out of it? Even though I’m in the business of selling tradeshow exhibits and helping people with their tradeshow marketing, I will ask what their goals are. They should be well-defined. They should have a reason for spending money on something new, or going to shows over and over.

It may be that going to a show opens new markets, or helps you connect with old clients on a personal level, leading to more sales, or to show off new products and new services. It could be anything that makes sense and will help grow your business. But since tradeshow marketing is an expensive proposition when you add it all up, make sure you answer the question:

To what end?

6 Ways to Step Up Your Tradeshow Game

Competition on the tradeshow floor is fierce, and it’s not going to get any easier. You might say it’s more competitive than ever! Your fellow exhibitors are bringing more people to their booth, giving away more samples, doing more in-booth and doing better in the things you don’t see at the booth, such as pre-show marketing, social media and follow-up.

What are you doing to step up your tradeshow game?


Here are 7 ways to step up your tradeshow game to at least keep pace with fellow exhibitors.

  • Bring Your “A” Game. You can characterize this a hundred ways, but it really means to step up your performance, do better than the last time, stay disciplined and focused so that almost nothing misses your gaze.
  • Have a better sample for giveaway. This could mean anything from working with your promotional products associate to brainstorm a different giveaway to having a premium gift for those that respond to a pre-show marketing mailer.
  • Catch eyeballs! Every booth is vying for eyeballs. What message is your exhibit saying? Whether it’s a 10×10 booth or a giant island, it still should communicate a clear and concise message and do it in a manner that catches eyeballs. Sometimes that’s graphics, sometimes it’s a compelling and bold statement or question.
  • Give visitors something to do. There are discussions to be had regarding the differences between flashy colorful booths or having something interactive. Both have their valid points. But if you can create an interactive booth and give a visitor something to do that’s engaging, creative and keeps them around for at least five minutes, you’ll definitely be stepping up your tradeshow game beyond many of your competitors.
  • Pay attention to visitors. It’s too easy to slip into ‘silent’ mode by pulling out your phone to check email, ready Facebook or text someone when crowds are light. But it’s at that moment when someone may come by, see that you’re engaged and keep walking.
  • Put on a smile. The only thing more welcoming to someone than a smile is to greet them with their name. If you don’t know their name, at the very least give them a smile!

Want to know all 14 steps to take your tradeshow marketing to the next level? Download a free copy of my book here (opt-in to newsletter).



Webinar: 27 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing

webinar keyboard

How many rules of tradeshow marketing are there really? Who knows? Pick a number!

In 2009 I wrote an e-book called “101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing” which eventually was downloaded 5,000 or so times. A couple of years ago I revised it and put it back out there in the cloud for free.

As we’re doing a webinar-a-month this year, I wanted to revisit the concept of ‘rules of tradeshow marketing’ but didn’t feel that I could do 101 rules justice in a 45-minute webinar. Hence, the somewhat random choice of just 27 rules.

In any event, you should join us for the webinar. It’s coming up April 19th, 2016 at 9 am Pacific / 10 am Mountain / 11 am Central and noon Eastern. Sign up as usual at

And yes, at the end I’ll make sure you get your own copy of the e-book that started it all: 101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing.

Booth Staff Body Language Primer

Have you ever walked by a tradeshow booth and felt somewhat put off by the vibe you were getting? So much so that you just kept on walking?

That’s not a surprise. The way that people stand, move and hold their body communicates a great deal. We don’t need to hear words to get a very plain message, and often that message is “we’re not really interested in talking to you right now.”

While you can spend a few minutes Googling body language and get a ton of great information, let’s stick to specifics for a booth staffer in a busy tradeshow.

Arms crossed: indicates a defensive position. People will see you as someone who is really not all that interested in talking with you right now.

Sitting on a chair: tired and non-energetic. Therefore it will be seen as not ready to engage.


On the phone: whether you’re talking or just checking out Twitter, Facebook or whatever, this also shows the visitor that they are less important than that stupid cat video (at least that’s what they think if they bother to think).

Holding a clipboard: can often be seen as someone who is on a mission to fill out the form, and will pounce at the first moment. Visitors often avoid this person.

Eating: Ugh.

No eye contact: again showing a visitor that you’re not important. It also shows shyness or desire to avoid interaction.

Direct eye contact and a smile: a positive sign that most visitors will interpret as a willingness to engage.

Hands down at side: another good positive open body position which tells a visitor that you’re ready to have a conversation.

Clenched fist: seen as a negative or aggressive stance.

A visitor can make a snap judgment in just a few seconds while standing 10 or 15 feet away. They will often make a decision on visiting your booth based entirely on the body language that your staff is using. Learn to read body language, and learn to use it positively to communicate an upbeat, welcoming message to your visitors.


Tradeshow Booth Photography is a Must

It’s nice to have a couple of snapshots of your tradeshow booth to show off on Twitter or your Facebook page.


But there are more reasons for taking pictures – a lot of them – of your booth.

Let’s start with the design and the look. Take snapshots of the booth from several angles so you get a good feel of how it looks from different directions. Next, take shots of the booth’s neighbors. No need to go crazy, just a few quick photos to see who’s next to you.

Now, take some close-ups. Tradeshow booths are only pulled out of their crates a few times a year, and if you have photos of details it might save you a trip to the storage area to open the crate. Take close-up photos of graphics. In fact, pull out a tape measure and take photos of all of the graphics so you have ‘real-size’ documentation of the graphics. You might be surprised at the difference between the specified size and the actual size. Good information to have on hand. Depending on the number of graphics, this might take awhile.

Is there any part of the booth that is damaged, worn, torn? Take photos to show exactly what’s going on so that when the booth returns home you can be specific about repairs that may be needed.

Professional photos

In some cases, you may want to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your booth. The best time to do it is prior to the show opening, so there are few people on the floor. A professional portfolio of your booth may come in handy for a variety of reasons. You can release photos to the media, send them out on social media where they’ll stand out from the crowd, and you may find that the exhibit can be entered in a design contest (like our friends at SoYoung last year).



What does it MEAN to your clients?

To really stick in someone’s mind, you must be meaningful to him or her.

From “Meaningful: The Story of Ideas that Fly” by Bernadette Jiwa:

“It’s easy to believe that ‘meaningful’ applies only to the businesses in what some people might call the ‘do-good’ sector of non-profits, sustainability and so on. But every one of us, from a software company to a cab driver, is in the meaning business. Without meaning, products and services are just commodities and nobody wants to be in the commodities business.”

So how does that apply to the tradeshow floor? What does it take to create enough meaning for a visitor that will stay with them long after the show is over?


It boils down to the people. Creating the product is comparatively easy. Getting attention is not all that hard. But sticking in someone’s mind means that the people you employ must understand what it is that is important to the visitors, and what affects them: what about your product or service means something to them?

It’s not an easy answer. And if you don’t know the moment you walk onto a tradeshow floor, you probably haven’t spent any time discussing it with your team prior to the show.

However, a tradeshow is a good opportunity to explore that meaning with your visitors. Think of it: there are thousands of visitors to the show. When they stop at your booth, take time to ask questions. By looking a customer in the eye, you have an opportunity that isn’t available when you’re just talking on the phone or asking people to fill out an online survey.

A tradeshow is an intimate encounter in the sense that you are talking to someone face to face. Yes, there are hundreds of conversations over the course of a three or four day show. As Bernadette put it in the book:

“Bricks-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of intimacy, online businesses, which must collect a ton of (often valuable) data to learn more about their customers and determine how to give them what they want….but the waiter sees the wrinkle nose, the barista remembers the regular and the doctor hears the stories that inputs from the keyboard can never fully communicate.”

Use that face-to-face opportunity to talk with people and really understand what they like and don’t like about your products and services. And make it formal to the extent that when you’re asking questions, you’re writing the answers down. Share that data with others in the company.

Ultimately, your job is to make people happy. If your clients find true meaning in the services and products you provide – enough to make them happy with your company – you’ve done your job.

© Copyright 2016 | Oregon Blue Rock, LLC
Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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